Athlete Brand Licensing vs. Endorsements: Understanding Ownership, Control, and Revenue

January 29, 2024

Nicholas Lemieux

At Athlete Studio, we emphasize the significance of athletes owning their personal brand and intellectual property (IP). This is crucial for establishing long-term brand equity and providing the athlete with creative autonomy. Athlete Studio has created personal brands and IP for more than 200 professional athletes including logos, apparel designs, product designs, and other creative. These athletes utilize their IP to generate income directly from eCommerce and for leverage in sponsorship discussions. Below we compare the differences between licensing personal brand/IP and endorsements involving sponsor-owned IP.

1. Ownership of Intellectual Property

Licensing Personal Brand/IP: In this case, the athlete retains ownership of their personal brand and IP. They grant permission to a company to use their name, image, likeness, or other branded elements for a certain period and under specific conditions. The athlete has control over how their brand is used and can set limits on the use of their IP.

Endorsement with Sponsor-Owned IP: In sponsorships where the sponsor owns the IP, the company typically has control over the athlete's image, name, or other personal brand elements for the duration of the agreement. This might mean the athlete has less control over how their brand is used, and the company can use their image for various marketing purposes without needing additional consent.

2. Revenue Model

Licensing: The athlete generally earns royalties based on sales or a flat fee for the use of their brand/IP. This arrangement can be more lucrative if the licensed products or services sell well.

Endorsement: The athlete is usually paid a fixed amount regardless of the sales of the products. This might be less risky for the athlete as they are guaranteed a certain income irrespective of the product's success.

3. Control and Creative Input

Licensing: Athletes often have more say in how their brand is portrayed and can negotiate terms that align with their values and image. They may also have approval rights over marketing materials.

Endorsement: Control is usually more in the hands of the sponsoring company. The athlete may have limited input into how their image is used in marketing campaigns.

4. Long-term Brand Strategy

Licensing: Licensing agreements can be a strategic part of an athlete's long-term brand development. They can choose partnerships that align with their career goals and personal brand.

Endorsement: Sponsorships can also be strategic but might be more focused on short-term gains and specific marketing campaigns.

5. Exclusivity and Flexibility

Licensing: Licensing agreements can be exclusive or non-exclusive, giving athletes flexibility to engage with multiple brands, provided they are not direct competitors.

Endorsement: Sponsorship deals often come with exclusivity clauses, limiting athletes from engaging with competing brands.

In the future, we will explore specific case studies of athletes developing IP and using customer data to leverage in sponsorship negotiations. Subscribe to our newsletter below for more content about athlete businesses and intellectual property.

Athlete Studio is the leading branding and eCommerce platform for pro athletes.

This article was assisted by AI.

You might like

Shop All

Subscribe to my newsletter

Subscribe for the latest highlights and content